The Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs of Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria, representing the trio of Presidencies of the Council of the EU, together with the European Commission, represented by the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality and the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship met on October 26-27, 2017 with their counterparts from six Western Balkan partners at the annual EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home affairs.
The Ministers underlined the key importance of rule of law, justice and fundamental rights in the EU’s relation with the region and of practical cooperation on justice and home affairs and focused on the topics of: justice reform, judicial cooperation, migration and border management, counter-terrorism and radicalisation, as well as fight against firearms trafficking.
The Ministers also emphasized the importance of the independence, quality and efficiency of justice systems as the basis of peaceful, democratic societies, underpinning economic growth. They agreed that quality justice systems were crucial to create mutual trust, which is necessary for judicial cooperation and the application of mutual recognition instruments.
They welcomed the efforts made by the Western Balkans partners in the area of justice reform and underlined that more would need to be done for the effective implementation of judicial reforms, bringing direct benefits to citizens while being also a fundamental element of the EU accession process.
As for regional cooepration, the Ministers acknowledged that improving regional judicial cooperation in the Western Balkans was crucial to good neighbourly relations.The Western Balkan Justice Ministers committed that their authorities would serve mutual legal assistance requests from their neighbours more swiftly in order to jointly and efficiently fight the most severe forms of crime affecting the region.
The EU representatives acknowledged that terrorism continued to be a common challenge for the European Union and the Western Balkans region and that close cooperation was essential for preventing radicalisation and terrorism. Ministers agreed that the existing formats and networks of cooperation, including through the Radicalisation Awareness Network, should be further strengthened.